CONCERNS have been raised that a UK Government minister snubbed the offer of a meeting with the Scottish Government over the future of the Grangemouth oil refinery.

The Scottish Government believes converting the site into a factory making sustainable fuel for planes out of used cooking oil could be a path to saving jobs and protecting the local economy.

However, the UK Government plans to cap hydrotreated esters and fatty acids (Hefa) fuel because of knock-on ill effects encouraging production could cause.

Scottish ministers are pressing their Westminster counterparts to reconsider – but are understood to have been met with radio silence from London.

Speaking in Parliament last Thursday, Energy Secretary Mairi McAllan told MSPs a request for a meeting with the UK Energy Minister on saving Grangemouth had been turned down.

She said: “I note that the UK Government has been willing to provide substantial sums of money towards industrial transition in other parts of the UK - namely Wales - and I would expect the same for Scotland.

“[Energy Minister] Graham Stuart has attended [the Grangemouth Future Industry Board (GFIB)] at our request, and I was disappointed to receive a letter from him yesterday that said that he did not think that another meeting with me and the Government was required in the meantime.

“I disagree, and I will press him for another meeting. In any case, I hope to see him at the next meeting of GFIB, at the end of the month.”

READ MORE: Fate of Grangemouth oil refinery sealed as ministers agree to 'support transition'

McAllan (below) added that she viewed the potential caps on sustainable aviation fuel as “regulatory barriers that get in the way of Scotland’s premier industrial complex being able to undertake a successful transition”.

The National: Mairi McAllan

At the last meeting of the GFIB on January 18, concerns were aired by Petroineos, the owner of the oil refinery at Grangemouth, about the UK Government’s proposed cap on Hefa.

Petroineos's head of legal and external affairs Iain Hardie said the minutes of the meeting voiced fears that the Government’s current policy on sustainable aviation fuels was “unclear and that this disadvantages the business from progressing investment”.

He added that converting the site into a sustainable aviation fuel factory was “commercially suboptimal with the current cap in place”.

READ MORE: 'Not good enough': UK Government 'unlikely' to save Grangemouth by ending biofuel cap

Petroineos also told the meeting that addressing the Hefa cap would be “transformational and that [UK Government] intervention could deliver tangible help to deliver this”.

UK Energy Minister Stuart (below) said he would pass on Petroineos’s concerns about the Government’s sustainable aviation fuel to the Department for Transport.

The National:

The Sunday National understands the Scottish Government has not heard from the Department for Transport since this meeting.

Petroineos has also been asked to share a full economic impact assessment of closing the oil refinery with the Scottish Government.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government wants to see activity at Grangemouth continue and is willing to engage with Petroineos and the UK Government to make that happen.

READ MORE: Grangemouth industry board slammed over inactivity

“Owing to the complexity of the refinery’s group structure, an assessment of its economic impact requires input from the business. Petroineos has committed to working with the Scottish Government to map the full impact of any potential future transition from refining to import mode at Grangemouth.

“It is simply too soon to comment on the impact that the refinery’s future transition will have on employment and the economy more widely. However, we are working with Scottish Enterprise and Petroineos to understand any potential economic impact.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Sustainable aviation fuel will be a key part of helping us to reach net zero, however we cannot rely on limited resources like used cooking oil alone – these fuels need to be capped to allow space for new technologies.

“That's why we’re investing £135 million to develop alternative fuels which can be produced on a large scale.”

A spokesperson for Petroineos said: “We were pleased to be invited to attend the GFIB meeting in January – our first attendance since its inception in 2020.

“We also regularly meet with representatives of both Scottish and UK Governments and discuss a range of topics of importance to the Petroineos refining operations at Grangemouth.

“We have found them to be constructive but by nature, the contents of those meetings can be commercially sensitive.

“We remain committed to exploring options for retaining manufacturing operations at Grangemouth and we are ready to engage with any new proposals from UK and Scottish Governments. We will continue to engage proactively and positively with stakeholders via well-established forums and channels.”